"We decide for ourselves what will hurt," a father says to 15-year-old Trond as he is injured while working in the Norwegian wilderness in the summer. But several years later, when Trond returns to the same place as an older man, he learns that this is, in fact, not the case.
“Out Stealing Horses is about a boy who was abandoned by his father and he never understood why, and it created a trauma that he carried his whole life,” says Stellan Skarsgård, who plays the older Trond in the film. “He never let it surface, which he eventually does in the end.”
Out Stealing Horses is based on the best-selling novel by Per Petterson and is directed by Hans Petter Moland. Skarsgård plays a retired man who has returned to the place where he spent a beautiful summer with his father as a young boy. He experienced the excitement of riding horses in the wilderness and working in nature. Having lived in urban Sweden for decades, he has lived a happy life but when his wife dies in a car accident, he seeks the solitary world that the Norwegian landscape of his childhood can provide. That is when the past sneaks upon him.
“He has been living his entire life believing that everything was fine because he had suppressed all the feelings he had about being abandoned by his father and his pretty dramatic childhood. So he thinks he is fine and then his wife dies and he thinks that if he were only alone, he would be able to fix this but it does not work like that.”
The film jumps back and forth between Trond’s childhood in the late 1940s to 1999 when Trond is returning to Norway. When he returns, it is winter and the breathtaking Norwegian landscape is now covered in snow and the days are short and dark. But then a neighbor named Lars (Bjørn Floberg) swings by and what happened to Trond distant decades ago becomes raw, painful and very present.
“A ghost from the past steps into his life and he is pulled back and this is how the film starts: How his memories are coming back to him just because he met Lars – this strange man living alone in the forest.” Skarsgård has worked with Moland several times before. The first time was in 1995 on Zero Kelvin.
“We complement each other in a wonderful way and over the years we have become friends outside of work and it is a very comfortable and creative atmosphere that you have to be in there where you know that there is no danger in failure or in doing something stupid or coming up with a stupid idea or do some bad acting in a take. Everything is possible because it is a very forgiving workspace.”